THE BAND | London, Theatre Royal Haymarket

Plunge deep into 1993 with a heady mix of Ceefax, Top of the Pops, cassette recorders and Smash Hits, which cannot fail but to stir up nostalgia — even for the disgruntled husbands dragged to this cheese-fest against their will.

The Band uses clever setting and casting to present a continuous plotline (with a 25-year leap between 1993 and 2018) focusing on five teenage girls who obsess over Take That — as only a 90s tween could — and tie their friendship around a promise made to each other after seeing the boy band in concert.

Act One is definitely the showcase for Take That’s more playful sense of self-deprecating humour. A typically West-End routine of “Relight My Fire” transforms into an outrageous, bondage-clad number, with “the boys” giving their best Barlow & Williams as they crawl on leashes, whipped by hormonal school girls. This sense of bizarre choreography and costume design is how this jukebox musical gets away with — at times — shoe-horning pop songs into lyrically unrelated scenes.

Act Two takes a turn for the sombre, however, and may leave some wishing the light-hearted numbers would come back for good. Kim Gavin’s direction skilfully weaves the band into each scene, who quite often play background characters, ranging from flight attendants all the way to statues. The band is ever-present, but does not detract from the female leads.

Katy Clayton and Emily Joyce both gave star turns as Heather (young and old), whilst “the boys” provided soft harmonies and ripped physiques, that would give a young Jason Orange some stiff competition. Props also to Andy Williams, whose portrayal of Every Dave showcased his ear for accents and gained some of the largest laughs of the evening.

The Band is a solid show, with energy, humour and some rather raw moments. Remember to bring your tissues for the unavoidable weepy scenes, and pack your dancing shoes for an upbeat encore.

For 50 performances only until 12 January 2019.

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